Give Young Dancehall Stars Like Skillibeng A Chance Says Veteran Producer Johnny Wonder
Many people were in disbelief last week when Skillibeng teased that he might have an upcoming collaboration with rap superstar Nicki Minaj. In fact, after he removed the post from Instagram, he was ridiculed as a lot of people questioned the validly of his claims of getting Nicki Minaj on the track.
When Nicki dropped her re-released 2009 mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty on digital streaming platforms, Skillibeng‘s naysayers were left with their mouths open as a remix of Skillibeng’s “Crocodile Teeth” was prominently featured. The video of the remix was put on YouTube last Friday, May 14, and has already surpassed 1.7 million views and is still climbing.
The single is also performing well on local charts and is currently the number one trending song on YouTube’s local chart. It’s also number one in nine Caribbean countries on Apple Music. The producer of the track, Johnny Wonder, told THE STAR that there is a lesson in the collaboration for young dancehall artists. He said it shows that even though you do things differently if you believe in your approach, you can make it. He added that even though young acts are taking a different path to the veterans and it doesn’t mean that they won’t be successful.
“What this does for the young artistes is give them hope. It saying to them, if Skilli can do it, then maybe we can do it too one day. Quality cannot be stopped, so young artistes, just keep on going. Don’t mind the heat, just keep doing your thing,” he said.
Johnny Wonder orchestrate the Nicki Minaj and Skillibeng collab
He also shared how the collaboration came to be. “Nicki just had a baby and wanted to come back, and this was one of the songs she wanted to be a part of. It was on her radar, and that just goes to show how big Crocodile Teeth is. It was also on Drake‘s, Bobby Shmurda, Burna Boy and all those other big-name stars who were singing along with it,” he said.
Johnny Wonder and Bounty Killer
Amazingly, he added that the entire thing took a week to do, and it happened so quickly because of Nicki Minaj and her team’s love for the track. “That song is massive. I think it was bigger than Skilli at one point and once you have a huge song, the possibilities for you as an artiste are endless. It’s impressive and the sky’s the limit right now,” he continued.
What’s equally as impressive is that the producer has been churning out hits for over 30 years now. Even though he took a break in the 90s, he returned in the 2000s with a bang. He’s worked with some of the big names in dancehall like Bounty Killer and Elephant Man. Following his latest fire collab, he spoke with the Gleaner as well about his endurance in the genre. He explained that to make it, one needs to be prepared to work hard and never give up because “there’s no space for lazy people in the music business.”
He added that you also have to believe in yourself even when things seem impossible.
“I have been doing this for a while, and I have had huge successes on the international scene, but none of that came easy. I have had to persevere through a lot of things because this industry is full of obstacles. You have to be committed to working seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you want to be successful in this game, you cannot be lazy. You have to stay one step ahead,” he went on to say.
His passion for the genre began when he was just a teen growing up in Brooklyn, and he felt that he had to do whatever it took to ensure that reggae and dancehall artists get a bigger platform to perform on. While he’s achieved that for the genre many times, he believes that the moment he knew it could be done was when he got the chance to work with Bounty Killer for his 1996 album, My Xperience.
That album would become one of the greatest bridges between hip-hop and dancehall as Wonder was able to bring together a star-studded cast, including acts like the Fugees, Mobb Deep, Raekwon, RZA, and Busta Rhymes. Even Bounty Killer has publicly said that he thinks that’s his best album ever.
“I took on Killer’s My Xperience project, and working with him really helped me establish dancehall on a global scale. We worked with the Fugees and many other big names, and it was just a whole experience. That album was something special. I loved it. The world deserved to see and hear this talented man,” he added. Following that outstanding effort, New York became his playing field where he was able to work with a lot more artists.
He also revealed to The Gleaner that he’s not done, and he has new music on the way. He said that he has a new Squash, a new Bounty Killer, and some more Skillibeng in the works. However, he admitted that he prefers to work at his own pace, so there is no timeframe for when these tracks will be released.
“My dream for the Jamaican industry is to push reggae and dancehall music to its true limit. This music industry can go so far, and we just need to facilitate the growth in any way possible,” he added.